North West business briefs: FW Capital; Social; RECOM Solutions; Vivify Venues

Gary Guest

Businesses across the North West and Tees Valley are set to benefit from a share of an additional £19.6m of funding from NPIF-FW Capital Debt Finance, which is managed by FW Capital and part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF). The additional money is available to businesses looking to grow and can be used for many purposes including cashflow, recruitment, equipment and premises expansion.

The additional funding that has been secured from NPIF is facilitated in conjunction with the Recovery Loan Scheme (RLS), a government-backed initiative set up to help SMEs access business loans to aid recovery after the pandemic.

This new allocation increases FW Capital’s NPIF funds to £162.2m and enables them to continue delivery of business loans under the RLS which is scheduled to end on June 30, 2022. Loan facilities range from £100,000 to £750,000 on terms of one to five years and offer fixed interest rates, providing certainty and confidence with regards to future repayments.

FW Capital provides loans to businesses based in the NPIF region with a focus on the North West, Cumbria and Tees Valley. FW Capital North West fund director, Gary Guest, said: “We’ve had a really busy period since the introduction of RLS. This important scheme is open until the end of June and is helping many businesses across our region.

“The NPIF-FW Capital Debt Finance funding and RLS offers fixed interest rates and favourable terms offering certainty for businesses looking to grow at this difficult time of rising energy and fuel costs and an increased cost of living. There is a strong appetite for growth across the region, and we are seeing a significant uplift in business confidence with regards to investing in the future.”

Sean Hutchinson, at the British Business Bank, said: “FW Capital have played an important role in the delivery of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund to date. We congratulate FW Capital on securing this additional funding and look forward to seeing them continue to support businesses with vital debt finance as they recover and grow in these challenging times.”


John Quinton Barber

Purpose-driven communications group Social is celebrating after recording a 32% increase in turnover to more than £3.4m for the latest financial year, and a 38% increase in pre-tax profits of £175,449.

2021 saw Social establish four new divisions: Social Invest, which specialises in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) consulting; Social Net Zero, a dedicated climate change communications consultancy; Social Tech Communications, which supports technology businesses; and an office serving Merseyside, Lancashire and Cumbria.

The rapid growth has seen the Manchester-based group increase its total headcount to 50 colleagues. In parallel to its financial accounts, Social has published its latest impact report, demonstrating how it has lived up to its commitment to have a material positive impact on society and the environment. The report also gives detail of Social’s work on four significant pro bono campaigns, its donation of three per cent of pre-tax profits to 11 good causes, and the voluntary work carried out by staff under its new policy of five days’ paid volunteering leave for all colleagues.

The report assesses Social’s progress against the B Corp standards relating to social and environmental performance. Having submitted its application for B Corp accreditation, Social hopes to undergo verification in the coming weeks.

John Quinton-Barber, founder and group CEO of Social, said: “I’m beyond proud of the performance we’ve achieved over the past year. To enter new specialist sectors during a pandemic and take on new team members remotely was a real risk. But we backed ourselves and the team has delivered brilliantly.”


Joseph Dillon, left, and Jason McKnight

Construction project management consultancy RECOM Solutions has been appointed following a tendering process to a £600m framework for ethical regeneration schemes across Northern England and North Wales.

It is the latest to be launched by Liverpool-based framework operator Rise. Salford Quays-based RECOM has won places for general construction, refurbishment, safety and compliance and project management work. Users of the new framework will include NHS Foundation Trusts and clinical commissioning groups, schools, academies and universities, social housing providers, local authorities, community-led housing organisations, charities, emergency services and third sector groups across the North West and North Wales, Yorkshire and Humber and Lincolnshire.

Rise is a pro-social business procurement group which provides agency services to construction frameworks, and supports communities by investing profits into local initiatives.

RECOM director, Jason McKnight, said: “Securing places on the new Rise framework is a tremendous endorsement of the quality and range of work that we currently undertake, and presents a fantastic opportunity for the company. It’s a very prestigious and significant initiative for our client base, as well as ourselves.”

RECOM, which has 30 staff, recently moved to new headquarters on the Waters Edge Business Park at Salford Quays. The company, which was founded by Joseph Dillon and Jason, undertakes construction project management and main contracting work across sectors including healthcare, education, retail and leisure, commercial and residential.


Alaine Swis and Russell Teale

Multi-family investment office Arete, which has offices in Liverpool and Manchester, is leading a £1m round into digital scale-up platform, Vivify Venues, after a successful first round of funding.

Founded in 2020 by the current management team of Russell Teale and Alaine Swis, who have since been joined by finance director, Carl Cox and chairman Richard Millman, Manchester-based Vivify works with schools across the country to hire out their facilities outside of school hours to enable them to generate much needed revenue that can be invested back into their facilities, teachers, and pupil experience.

Arete first met the business before it launched its booking platform in 2020 and invested during 2021 to help fuel growth and add value through the team’s experience. Now, where the use of leisure facilities is returning to pre-pandemic levels, Vivify’s platform is now utilised by more than 70 schools and has enabled thousands of hirer groups and grassroots teams to find and book local facilities.

Simon Lord, partner at Arete, said: “Vivify has generated a significant amount of revenue for schools to date, and this new capital round will enable the business to work with a greater number of schools by providing the technology for school stakeholders with limited time to easily launch and manage a community lettings programme in-house. We are delighted that high calibre investors such as Bill Currie and Sir Terry Leahy, who come with significant experience in the education sector, are joining Vivify in this round of funding.”

Russell Teale, CEO at Vivify, said: “The initial investment from Arete enabled us to raise awareness of Vivify and offer a lifeline to schools, including some who were operating a deficit budget. With costs like energy bills rapidly increasing, hiring out facilities can generate hundreds of thousands of pounds for a school, and, in turn, help with pupil recruitment which brings additional funding.”

The transaction was led by Simon Lord, Andy Critchley and Briony Fagan at Arete; Matt Noon and Elan Iorwerth of Hill Dickinson (legal advisers); and Patrick Morris of Fairhurst (tax).